ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Baseball's best team became the quietest Tuesday night.
The White Sox lulled themselves to sleep by allowing nine walks, then were punched out when Jorge Cantu launched a home run off reliever Shingo Takatsu with one out in the ninth inning to give Tampa Bay a maddening 7-6 victory at Tropicana Field.
After posting a pair of eight-game winning streaks, the Sox (24-9) are in danger of getting swept for the first time this seasonby the American League's perennial doormat.
Their worst enemy, however, was themselves as their pitchers couldn't bail out the once-struggling offense.
"We beat ourselves," manager Ozzie Guillen said after employing four relievers who collectively struggled after the departure of starter Jose Contreras. "We walked too many people. Walks always will kill you on the big-league level. You make people hit the ball. We didn't hold the lead [because of walks], and that's why we lost. It's not because Shingo gave up the home run."
Takatsu threw up his hands as Cantu's ball sailed over the left-field fence. Takatsu has allowed five home runs in nine innings this season, but Guillen cleared his embattled part-time closer of any guilt.
"I told him it could be you, [Dustin] Hermanson or anybody," Guillen said. "We believe in him. There were just too many walks. You walk a team that can run and has good speed, you get in trouble.
"I'd rather have someone hit a home run like they did to Shingo. I can live with that. But you walk people, they'll kill you."
Contreras set the tone, reverting to his troubles in spring training when he couldn't harness his fastball. His equaled his season high with five walks, and Guillen pulled him after allowing a single to Cantu to start the sixth.
But the most severe damage came in the fourth when Contreras allowed consecutive walks to Nick Green and Chris Singleton. Toby Hall followed with a three-run home run that wiped out a 4-1 lead.
"That's where I lost the game," Contreras said inside a clubhouse void of the traditional postgame staples of music and television. "Two walks and a big hit. That's where I lost the game, walking people."
Contreras said he momentarily lost his focus after missing on a pitch to Singleton.
Wildness spread to relievers Luis Vizcaino and Damaso Marte, who walked two batters apiece.
Vizcaino, making his second appearance since April 29, showed rust in walking two before allowing a game-tying single to Cantu in the seventh.
The control problems overshadowed a productive outing by the bottom of the Sox's order. Juan Uribe, Chris Widger and Joe Crede went a collective 7-for-11 with five doubles and three RBIs, while the rest of the order went 2-for-23. The threesome hit consecutive doubles in the two-run fourth for the 4-1 lead.
The Sox also employed the suicide squeeze for the first time since spring training when Tadahito Iguchi laid down a perfect bunt against 6-foot-10-inch left-hander Mark Hendrickson to score Crede and extend the Sox's lead to 6-4 in the sixth.
But the heart of the Sox's orderCarl Everett, Paul Konerko, Aaron Rowand and Jermaine Dyecontinue to struggle.
"I don't worry about my 3-4-5 hitters," Guillen said. "They have to believe in themselves. They're going to be in the lineup.